The University of Iowa announced Wednesday night its men's basketball game against Michigan State scheduled for Thursday is being postponed, as mutually agreed upon out of an abundance of caution surrounding the health and safety of the participants. The two institutions will work with the Big Ten Conference to identify rescheduling options.
IOWA CITY, Iowa - The plan is to play.
Michigan State was on its way to Iowa City for Thursday’s 8 p.m. game (FS1) against Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena with COVID-19 issues hanging over the Spartans.
Two Spartans — center Mady Sissoko and guard Steven Izzo, the son of coach Tom Izzo — have tested positive for COVID-19, Tom Izzo said on Wednesday. Izzo said there were no other positive tests within the program, so the Spartans were planning on playing.
Under the Big Ten’s testing protocols, players and coaches from both teams will be tested on Thursday morning.
“We don't get a lot of information about other teams, unless we're getting ready to play them,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “So we were informed that there might be one or two guys out. If there are, I hope they're doing well and getting better.”
The Spartans (8-4 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) haven’t played since a 55-54 loss to Purdue on Jan. 8.
It’s a crucial game for the No. 5 Hawkeyes (11-2, 5-1), who are a game behind Big Ten leader Michigan.
Michigan State fell out of the Associated Press poll this week, but the Spartans are still the Spartans, a program that has been to the Final Four eight times in Izzo’s 22 seasons as a coach.
Asked why the Spartans have been so successful, McCaffery said, “Well, I think there's a variety of things. Coach Izzo is a Hall of Fame coach. That is a good place to start. But they've recruited well. They have had really good players. I think they play a style that is, I think, really good for the personnel that they have. They have always played fast and they have always defended. And they compete hard.
“So you put a great coach and really good players and a good system and a team that competes and understands how to play, they're going to win a lot of games.”
The Spartans have dominated the Hawkeyes in recent seasons — Iowa is just 4-20 in the series since 2007, and Michigan State has a five-game winning streak against Iowa.
Even if the record and lack of ranking doesn’t show it, the Hawkeyes know what they’re going to get.
“They’re going to be one of the most physical teams, one of the most aggressive teams, one that always pushes it in transition,” Iowa center Luka Garza said. “A team that always prides itself on being the tougher team, winning the war on the board. We know going into the game we need to be able to rebound. We have to be tough to work through the physicality.”
“It’s the same Michigan State team,” guard Jordan Bohannon said. “If I were to guess, they’ll probably be in the Final Four this year. You guys might think I’m crazy. It’s Coach Izzo, and they always find a way to get to the Final Four.
“They always pride themselves on being the tougher team. We have to understand that, no matter what they’ve done in the last couple of games, who they’ve lost to, who they’ve beaten, it doesn’t matter. I haven’t beaten Michigan State since I’ve been here. We’ve been close a bunch of years and let it slip away. That’s definitely on my mind. We can’t take what they’ve done for granted.”